Shadow Politics

Appropriately named Shadow, Inc. is at the center of the Iowa Caucus controversy. They are the software company that developed the APP that has delayed the caucus results. As more and more details come out about the company behind the APP, the more it leads to questions about political subterfuge and even corruption.

Let us start with the obvious. They are the deep connections of the APP developer with party operatives that have a stake in the outcome of the caucus results. Since 2016, there have been outspoken concerns about vote rigging that gave Hillary Clinton the nomination. Shadow, Inc and the Iowa Democratic Party leadership have argued that the underlining data collection of the APP was “sound”. Both are saying that the breakdown was in the transfer of data.

The problem with software for vote gathering lies in the opportunity to change results without anyone noticing. Software can be programmed to show the voter their selection but change the selection in the background before transmitting it to the tabulation office. Without a printed record there is no way to determine whether the software is transmitting the votes accurately.

Therein lies the problem with voter technology that does not provide a paper trail.

“We have determined that this was due to a coding issue,” says the Iowa Democratic Party, clearly betraying how easy it is to skew vote results via software, intentionally, or not.

Without a paper trail and with any software the most important thing is trust. Do voters trust the APP developer to be unbiased and transparent.

Here is where things get interesting.

The APP developer, Shadow, Inc. is funded by ACRONYM, a non-profit organization. ACRONYM has been distancing itself from Shadow, Inc. after the Iowa disaster calling itself just an “investor” instead of the owner of the company.

Shadow’s leadership have strong ties to the Hillary Clinton Campaign. Clinton recently said that nobody likes Bernie Sanders. According to Salon Magazine, both Iowa and Nevada paid $60,000 each to Shadow, Inc. for the software. Pete Buttegieg’s campaign paid it $42,500. The Shadow, Inc. Medium page states that the company is “working to build political power for the progressive movement” through its technology offerings.

Nevada officials recently stated that they will not be using the APP.

In the United States, the Progressive Era (1890-1920) was driven by social activism demanding political reform across the nation. It was driven by the pressures on the middle and lower classes because of industrialization, immigration and the urbanization of the nation.

Today’s progressive movement is driven by the same pressures on the middle to lower classes except that it leans heavily on racial equality and other current social issues such as the climate. Like the Progressive Era it seeks to fundamentally change the politics of the nation.

To be clear the current progressive movement is not only a United States phenomena as it has sprung up in several nations across the globe. In México, the success of the movement exerting political power is demonstrated in the election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or AMLO.

But the progressive movement is fractured with some arguing that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are “undermining” the movement and others latching on to the Sanders grassroots efforts. At the same time the moderate Democrat establishment, i.e. the Hillary Clinton machine, fears a Sanders nomination.

This brings us back to the progressive movement and Clinton tentacles behind the software company that produced an APP that has caused many to wonder about the results of the Iowa Caucus results.

Shadow, Inc. is not a well-known and established technology company. It was launched sometime in 2019. Gerard Niemira is the CEO. He previously worked for ACRONYM, who funded Shadow, before moving over to the APP company. ACRONYM, as a non-profit, is not required to disclose who is funding its operations. ACRONYM’s incubating of for-profit companies involved in the political process has been an ongoing use of non-profits to disguise the source of funds used to launch and incubate politically connected companies across the nation.

A traditional technology company, like Cognent, must invest in the development of its product and convince customers to use it. Traditional technology companies usually use borrowed money or money from its principals during the start up phase where the product is developed, tested and marketed. Traditional companies must then spend on marketing efforts to land clients who pay for the technology.

Non-profit to for-profit money flows, like the one for Shadow, Inc. allows the software company to bypass the hard work of finding funding to develop and promote their software product. The non-profit not only provided the seed money to build the APP but it also provided a built-in market that paid to use the product. Because of its non-profit status, it is impossible to determine who funded the software company and for what reasons.

A traditional company’s sources of initial funding is mostly transparent. Either it was self-funded, or it used loans or investors.

In all cases, the motives are clear, to make money.

The motives of the donors behind the non-profit are difficult to gauge because of the secrecy behind who they are. Clearly, as a non-profit, it is not about making money but about an unknown agenda. It also helps financially that as a non-profit, ACRONYM is not required to pay taxes.

Who is funding ACRONYM and by extension Shadow, Inc. and why is the important question that demands an answer.

ACRONYM’s actions in response to the fiasco do not bode well for transparently understanding the tentacles around the debacle. According to The Daily Beast, Tara McGowan, the founder of ACRONYM immediately tried to distance her non-profit from the APP developer. She issued a Twitter post arguing that ACRONYM is just an investor in Shadow, Inc. and knows nothing about the technology.

However, as The Daily Beast reported, ACRONYM’s website had a section, which has now been deleted, stating that Shadow, Inc. “will exist under the ACRONYM umbrella”. The Daily Beast reported other instances of changes in the website that puts distance between ACRONYM and Shadow, Inc. The Wall Street Journal reported on a November 21, 2019 email from McGowan to donors where she described the software company as “owned by Acronym”.

But it gets worse, McGowan is married to Michael Halle, “a senior strategist for Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign,” according to The New York Times. The paper also reported that Shadow’s “top executives all worked in the Clinton campaign”.

For its part, the Iowa Democrats were secretive about who their technology partners were until the software fiasco. Why the secrecy?

Software development has a long development cycle because it requires several steps, including testing and deployment before it can be used in real time. At Cognent we have a foundation developed over years from which to deploy APPS quickly but even then, a complex deployment like the Iowa one would take close to a year to properly deploy even at our most agile format.

Shadow, Inc. was a month or two old when it landed its contract to deploy the Iowa caucus APP. It is unclear how long it took to develop the APP and what the underlining technology is in it. But The Wall Street gives us a clue.

Smart phone APPS are either native-built or are deployed via the web. Native APPS are APPS that users download through their respective APP stores for their phones, i.e. Apple or Google. To test and deploy APPs during the development process, software companies have “sandboxes” where the software can be tested. The sandboxes are not for use in real world environments. Apple and Google each have specific guidelines that software makers must meet before their software is made available on their App Stores for downloads.

Until the APP is approved, the only way to download the APP is through the testing sandboxes. According to a passage in The Wall Street Journal, it looks like the precinct chairs were directed to download the APP into their phones via “two obscure app-testing sites,” not the traditional App Stores.

The New York Times added that the software company had “less than two months to build” the APP, adding that it was “difficult to download.” The Times quoted anonymous ACRONYM employees who stated that there was not enough time for the APP to be approved by the Apple store.

Several news reports stated that the software was to be downloaded from TestFairy and TestFlight, two sandboxes used for testing purposes only. Software downloaded from the two sites are never intended for real world use as the industry standard is to deploy the software from their respective App stores: Apple or Google. To be listed on the APP stores, both Apple and Google take time to accept the software.

Apparently there was not enough time to push the software directly via the APP stores as would be expected from properly designed and deployed software.

It is clear from the initial reports that the APP development cycle did not meet the industry standards of a “mission critical” software that would be expected. There was simply not enough time. The apparent lack of deployment through a recognized App store gives credence to the idea that the software did not follow industry standards and that it failed to be tested properly.

It is too early to tell whether the failure of the software was the result of an attempt to alter the results or if it was simply a failure in adequately preparing the APP for secure and efficient processing of the voter data.

However, the tentacles between unknown funding sources, Democrat establishment operatives and the initial secrecy by the Iowa Democrats gives rise to conspiracy theories about the failures.

The 2016 WikiLeaks release of DNC emails show that the Democrat establishment “favored” Hillary Clinton in the nomination process. Bernie Sanders supporters continue to argue that Sanders was “robbed.” Hillary Clinton was recently quoted as stating that no one likes Sanders. It is also no secret that many in the Democrat Party establishment fear a Bernie Sanders ticket.

Clearly there are many problems that betray complete incompetence or outright corruption within the Democrat Party.

Tie the information presented here with the eventual outcome of the Iowa Caucus and see if and how it all correlates together.

Advertisements