The Iowa Democratic Party declined to have a new voting application vetted by the Department of Homeland Security, the agency’s Acting Secretary Chad Wolf said on Tuesday.
The app, developed by Shadow Inc., was blamed for some of the problems during the Democratic caucuses on Monday night. The issues led to the results of the caucuses being delayed.
“Our cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency has offered to test that app from a hacking perspective,” Wolf said during an appearance on “Fox & Friends.”
“They declined, so we’re seeing a couple of issues with it.”
There was no evidence of a hack, Wolf said.
“Right now, we don’t see any malicious cyber activity going on. No one hacked into it. This is more of a stress or a load issue as well as a reporting issue that we’re seeing in Iowa,” he said.
“Given the amount of scrutiny that we have on election security these days, this is a concerning event, and it really goes to the public confidence of our elections.”
The Iowa Democratic Party didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about how the party tested the app. Party officials declined to provide details about the app when asked by multiple outlets before the election. Troy Price, the chairman of the state party, told NPR that the state party worked with the national party’s cybersecurity team and Harvard University’s Defending Digital Democracy project.
“We as the party have taken this very seriously, and we know how important it is for us to make sure that our process is secure and that we protect the integrity of the process,” Price said.
“We want to make sure we are not relaying information that could be used against us.”
Party spokeswoman Mandy McClure said late Monday that the election results were delayed due to “quality checks” and inconsistent reporting, but said the app developed by Shadow did not go down and was not hacked. Ballots provided a sound paper trail that was being used to tally the results, she added.
No email addresses or phone numbers were listed on Shadow’s website. The company is full of “campaign and technology veterans” who have built and put into place technology for Hillary Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s campaigns as well as Google, the Democratic National Committee, and the AFL-CIO union, the company said.
“Our passion is to create a permanent advantage for progressive campaigns and causes through technology,” it stated. No staff members were named on the site.
Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) cheer next to an Iowa flag at his rally in Des Moines, Iowa on Feb. 3, 2020. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)
Several high-level Shadow executives, including CEO Gerard Niemira, worked on Clinton’s 2016 campaign. Niemera was previously the chief technology officer and chief operating officer at ACRONYM, a nonprofit digital strategy firm.
Shadow was created in part from investments by ACRONYM, founder and CEO Tara McGowan said in January 2019.
In a statement issued overnight, the nonprofit attempted to distance itself from Shadow, noting it was one of multiple investors into the company.
“We are reading confirmed reports of Shadow’s work with the Iowa Democratic Party on Twitter, and we, like everyone else, are eagerly awaiting more information from the Iowa Democratic Party with respect to what happened,” ACRONYM spokesman Kyle Tharpe said in a statement.
ACRONYM did not provide any technology to the DNC, Iowa Democratic Party, or presidential campaigns, the statement said.
Robby Mook, Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager, also distanced himself from the app on Monday night after people drew attention to the Des Moines Register reporting last week that Mook and experts in a number of fields “simulated the different ways that things could go wrong on caucus night.”
“Sorry, folks,” Mook wrote on Twitter.
“I did NOT have anythjng [sic] to do with building the Iowa caucus app. I dont know anything about it, had no role in it, and dont own a company that makes mobile appa [sic].”
Shadow was paid $58,000 in August 2019 by the Nevada Democratic Party and the Iowa Democratic Party paid the company over $63,000 in late 2019. The Nevada Democratic Party didn’t respond to a request for comment. Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign also paid Shadow over $42,000 last year for “software rights and subscriptions.”
Buttigieg said early Tuesday that “all indications” showed that he won the Iowa Democratic caucus.