Feb 6, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Exclusive: ACRONYM co-founder Tara McGowan on Iowa caucus app

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In a letter provided first to Axios, ACRONYM co-founder Tara McGowan sought to clear up donor questions about Shadow, the company that produced the app in the Iowa caucuses.

Why it matters: It's the first time ACRONYM has spoken out publicly on the incident since the caucus, which was marred by failures tied to the app.

  • "We have absolutely no interest in covering this up, which has been suggested," McGowan told Axios in a phone call on Wednesday evening.
  • "We just want to make people understand that we are a nonprofit that has invested in Shadow because we believe in [Shadow CEO Gerard Niemira], just as the Iowa Democratic Party did."

McGowan told Axios the Shadow team "made an enormous mistake that has dire consequences in this election and so we want to own that."

  • But she stands by Shadow's efforts to help push the Democratic Party to innovate.
  • "The space was ripe for disruption and innovation. Yet with the ethos of taking great risks means that we can make great mistakes."

What's new: In the letter, McGowan listed a timeline for ACRONYM's relationship with Shadow.

  • She said that ACRONYM "now owns a majority of the company, but there are other private investors too."
  • Niemira told Bloomberg that “the app was sound and good,” but the “problem was caused by a bug in the code that transmits results data into the state party’s data warehouse.”
  • “The bug wasn’t the only issue with the app,” Bloomberg reported. Caucus "chairs were having trouble signing in."

The big picture: News reports immediately following the caucuses identified Shadow as the company behind the app and ACRONYM as the nonprofit with a financial stake in Shadow.

  • In the letter, McGowan emphasized the difference between ACRONYM and PACRONYM, a political action committee.
  • ACRONYM is a nonprofit that both runs its own programming as well as invests in for-profit companies.
  • "We built our organization as a very innovative model in order to really push the envelope and build new things because the way campaigns and the party had operated in 2016 was not getting the job done."

The bottom line: McGowan says that she doesn't want this incident to slow investment in new tech and innovation.

  • "We don't want things like this to discourage people taking risk because the aversion to the risks could be the reason we lose in November."
  • "It would be a real travesty if an error of this nature told everyone to stop taking risks and doing things differently,” she said. “It’s why we do things differently. Shadow is one piece of the overall structure that we created, but a minor but critical one in this moment.”

Go deeper: Read McGowan's full letter

Go deeper

Coronavirus stay-at-home orders crater voter registration efforts

A volunteer looks for persons wanting to register to vote on July 4, 2019 in Santa Fe, N.M. Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic is scuppering usual "get out the vote" efforts, leading to fears that large swaths of Americans could miss out on this year's elections.

What’s happening: Advocacy groups typically target college campuses, churches, festivals, fairs and other gatherings to seek out people who have yet to register, but many of those places are now closed. Voter registration efforts have largely moved to the internet, but advocates question whether that will be as effective as the person-to-person pitch.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 5,471,768 — Total deaths: 344,911 — Total recoveries — 2,223,523Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 1,660,072 — Total deaths: 98,184 — Total recoveries: 379,157 — Total tested: 14,604,942Map.
  3. World: Italy reports lowest number of new cases since February — Ireland reports no new coronavirus deaths on Monday for the first time since March 21 — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: New York stock exchange to reopen its floor on Tuesday — White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 51 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Italy reports lowest number of new coronavirus cases since February

Italy’s aerobatic team Frecce Tricolori fly over Milan in Duomo Square on May 25. Photo: Francesco Prandoni/Getty Images

The Italian government reported 300 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, the lowest daily increase since Feb. 29.

Why it matters: Italy, the first country in Europe to implement a nationwide lockdown after emerging as a hotspot in March, appears to have finally weathered its coronavirus outbreak. Italy has reported nearly 33,000 total deaths, the third-highest total behind the U.S. and U.K.