Acronym, as the group’s founder and CEO Tara McGowan has told seemingly any reporter who would listen in the last year, was supposed to shake up Democratic politics. Faced with Republican opponents that now actually know how to campaign on social media, the non-profit digital strategy organization intended to offer an effective Democratic countermeasure, guided by digitally savvy hands of the Obama 2012 and Clinton 2016 campaigns.
After the disastrous Iowa Caucus on Monday, it’s hard to imagine that anyone is buying this story now. A faulty smartphone app, developed by the Acronym subsidiary “Shadow,” failed to correctly tabulate Iowa caucus votes. Though the Iowa Democratic Party says the vote counts are unaffected, the confusion has given ailing campaigns room to maneuver that they otherwise wouldn’t have had. Pete Buttigieg took the opportunity to declare victory, apparently based on nothing more than a gut feeling. Joe Biden, who has been slipping in polls for the past couple weeks, has asked for the actual votes to be invalidated.
According to an Acronym staffer, who spoke under condition of anonymity because of a non-disclosure agreement, Acronym is “far and away the most disorganized place I've ever been a part of.” Though Acronym’s initial statement to the press on Monday night kept Shadow at arm’s length, referring to it in the third-person and noting that it “also has other private investors,” this is a diversion.
According to my source, Shadow operates within the confines of Acronym, and its staff works with and alongside workers from other parts of Acronym in offices located Denver, New York, and Washington, D.C. The Intercept reported similar details on Tuesday afternoon, noting that as recently as last month McGowan identified Acronym as the "sole" investor in Shadow. The company appears to have edited its website in the last month, now claiming that it only invested in Shadow, rather than having “launched it.” McGowan herself tweeted the statement from Acronym early Monday, saying that Shadow is “an independent company that Acronym invested in.”
If you look at Acronym's "About" page today it says "we invested in Shadow" but if you look at the Wayback Machine from last month it's "we launched Shadow" pic.twitter.com/FM5XVddclh— Kate Knibbs