On February 3, 2020, the Iowa Democratic caucuses were brought to a screeching halt in part by the failure of an app produced by Shadow — the political tech company cofounded by Tara McGowan’s nonprofit ACRONYM. Below is our profile of McGowan and the risk she was taking with her unconventional model … a model now threatened by the Iowa debacle.
Democratic operatives have found a target for their anger and frustration over Iowa’s botched caucus results — Tara McGowan, the political strategist whose company is directly tied to the troublesome vote-reporting app at the center of the chaos.
Even before the Iowa mess, McGowan, a former journalist and Barack Obama campaign aide, was both one of the Democratic Party’s most in-demand leaders this cycle — and also one of its most divisive.
Acronym, which includes a hybrid model of a 501(c)4 entity that does not disclose donors and a Super PAC that does, has been a favorite for deep-pocketed Democratic donors. Donald Sussman, the founder of Paloma Partners, and Michael Moritz, a partner at Sequoia Capital, each donated $1 million to Acronym last year. Filmmaker Steven Spielberg gave $500,000. Investor Seth Klarman, once a major donor to Republican causes, gave $1.5 million to Acronym.
But business and tax records show ACRONYM and Shadow are registered at the same Washington, D.C., street address, which belongs to a WeWork co-working location. Shadow CEO Gerard Niemira previously served as the chief operating officer and chief technology officer at ACRONYM, according to an online resume.
And on Sunday, McGowan tweeted pictures from a birthday celebration that included her husband and Troy Price, the chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party.