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Former Hillary Clinton, Obama Operatives Behind Failed Iowa Caucus App

'I would say this company failed, not technology failed. Everything had a single point of failure. If I was designing it, there would have been multiple clusters … that’s actually a pretty common practice nowadays,' Jason Erickson, chief operating officer at ThinkSpace IT in Harlan, Iowa, tells CRN.

The app that has left the results of the Iowa caucus a shambles reportedly was designed by Shadow Inc., an outfit comprised of a group of political operatives and technology workers who have previously worked for Hillary for America and Obama for America.

“We see ourselves as building a long-term, side-by-side ‘Shadow’ of tech infrastructure to the Democratic Party and the progressive community at large,” Shadow states on its website. “We are campaign and technology veterans who have built and implemented technology at Hillary for America, Obama for America, Google, Kiva, Apple, the AFL-CIO, and the DNC.”

[RELATED: Iowa Caucuses: Solution Providers Seek Relief From Surging Benefit Costs]

Shadow, a small Washington, D.C.-based company, built a mobile app that appears to have caused problems during the Iowa presidential caucuses, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Shadow CEO Gerard Niemira worked for Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful campaign for president between March and November 2016 where he was “(p)romoted during the campaign to lead the small but mighty team in charge of all of the campaign’s tools for field organizers and volunteers,” according to his LinkedIn profile.

The app's failure to deliver results from caucus sites to a central reporting body, coupled with the failure of the backup phone system, left the results of the first contest of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary in limbo. The presidential candidates were forced to move on to New Hampshire with no winner in Iowa in terms of votes and no one being awarded the lion’s share of the 41 delegates that remain up for grabs.

One Iowa MSP said this was not a technology failure so much as a human failure on the part of the company that designed the app.

“I would say this company failed, not technology failed. Everything had a single point of failure. If I was designing it, there would have been multiple clusters … that’s actually a pretty common practice nowadays,” Jason Erickson, chief operating officer at ThinkSpace IT in Harlan, Iowa, told CRN. “For example, with the phone solution we provide, our phone solution is not only on redundant servers, but at redundant data centers across the U.S. I could lose a good chunk of the U.S. and my phones would still work.”

He said the reported price tag of $60,000—based on campaign finance receipts reported by the L.A. Times— was cheap for what the app promised.

“$60,000 for a specialty app like that, I think they may have gone on the value end. Maybe that’s where the failure was. If they’re looking at phones and apps and all the storage and everything else, $60,000 seems a little undervalued for me,” he said. “It’s hard to ballpark, but if we were looking at just a basic app—which they were able to go in, and make their choices and comment—I would say $100,000 to $150,000 would be more realistic.”

Shadow, which provides no contact information on its website, says its mission is “to build political power for the progressive movement by developing affordable and easy-to-use tools for teams and budgets of any size.”

The Colorado-based company has 10 employees in the U.S. registered on its LinkedIn profile, with most of those living in New York City.

The company’s chief technology officer, Krista Davis, worked as a back-end software engineer for Hillary Clinton’s campaign between June 2015 and November 2016.

“Designed and built backend microservices for tools supporting our field organizers and critical campaign systems,” she wrote on LinkedIn. “Mentored a team of more junior backend engineers, including one-off support for engineers on other teams.” She has prior experience as a software engineer with Google: Video Chat (Hangouts), Google Docs (Drive), People Storage Backend, Google.org Giving Team, her profile states.

Shadow’s chief operating officer, James Hickey, also worked for Hillary Clinton’s campaign from June 2015 to November 2016 as an engineering manager. The 2007 Oberlin College graduate was previously head software engineer at Branderati before it was acquired by Sprinklr, which then hired him as director of product development.

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