An Iowa Democratic Caucus Review

Conflicts of Interest, Incompetence & Corruption

While things still seem to be unresolved in Iowa, I have a little list of things I’d like to review with some questions at the end.

Possibly everyone has heard the story by now about how the designers of the app that started all the troubles in Iowa had some problematic ties….

#1 – ACRONYM (co-founded by Tara McGowan, who is married to Michael Halle, a senior strategist with the Buttigieg campaign) is invested in, related to, and shares office space with SHADOW (launched by former staffers of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign). SHADOW developed the app that started the meltdown, and “A person with knowledge of the companies culture, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, shared communications showing that top officials a the company regularly expressed hostility to Sen. Bernie Sanders’s supporters.” [1]

Everyone knows there is a lot of incest in politics so maybe it’s just to be expected and isn’t anything nefarious. But it does appear to be some conflicts of interests here (which might also be expected at this point). The fact that they went with a company named SHADOW isn’t particularly a good look considering how things played out. At least the person behind SHADOW wasn’t named Snidely Whiplash.

So maybe we can write the whole app issue off to incompetence and a little conflict of interest on the level to be expected in politics.

#2 – Rather than waiting to release results when all of them were ready to be released, the Iowa Democratic Party decided to release the results piecemeal over a period of days, choosing to release results of some caucuses before others. The order they released them influenced the narrative that Pete may have won the delegate count (this reinforced the narrative that Pete had started the night before when he declared victory with almost no results reported). The results of caucuses that had been conducted early and had turned their results in FIRST—and which had overwhelmingly favored Bernie—were released LAST. Had they released them in a different order, a different narrative would have been created.

This is somewhat suspicious. I think if they knew this was going to take a while, they should have waited to release everything all at once when they were done so as not to create a potentially false narrative in the media that might play out for days.

#3 – On Wednesday afternoon, the Des Moines Register reported that the Iowa Democratic Party had misreported results on three occasions. In each case supporters and delegates for Sanders were given to other candidates and the results had to be corrected. [2]

Honest mistakes? Maybe. But it is interesting that on all these occasions the mistakes went against Bernie.

#4 – Later the NYT reported that the results were “riddled” with over 100 errors. [3]

This one may just be the result of what might be expected from a complicated caucus system.

Considering this was the first time in the 48 year history of the Iowa caucus system that the numbers for the various candidate supporters in both the first and final alignments were reported—and was therefore the first time that outsiders could double-check—it might have exposed the possibility that these kinds of errors may have gone unnoticed throughout its entire history.

There have been plenty of times the results from Iowa have made a big difference in someone’s campaign over the years. So past errors in Iowa may have made Jimmy Carter president in 1976, Obama president in 2008, and Clinton the nominee in 2016. Maybe Clinton would have been president for 8 years instead of Obama, or Sanders the president now rather than Trump. I guess we will never know.

#5 – As more results were released, Bernie’s popular support numbers kept growing and Pete’s margin over Bernie in State Delegate Equivalents (SDEs) kept shrinking. By the time 71% of the results were reporting, his lead had been reduced to 1.6%. With 92% reporting, it was reduced to 0.9%. With 96% reporting, it had been reduced to 0.7%. With 97% reporting, it was reduced to 0.1%. It appeared that what we were still waiting on was a satellite caucus (SC100) that would likely strongly favor Bernie, and that Bernie was about to take the lead once those numbers were reported. At that point the rate the results were being reported came to a halt and hours passed.

I was checking in on the results in real time, especially as it grew closer to the end. It was getting late, but I thought at the rate the results were being updated it wouldn’t take much longer. After an hour or two with no new results, I started to assume that maybe they stopped because it was late, they were tired, they could see that Bernie was about to overtake Pete which would change the narrative, and they would rather finish it off after a good night’s sleep when they were fresh to deal with the fallout in the morning.

So I went to bed myself and checked in the next morning around 9 am to see there hadn’t been any change. Pete still held the slimmest of leads with a margin of 0.1% with 97% reporting.

The fact that the reporting had come to a dead stop when it seemed Pete’s firewall was so close to collapsing seemed a bit suspicious to me.

#6 – After several hours of delay, DNC chair Tom Perez tweeted “Enough is enough,” and called for a recanvassing of all precincts. [4] The Iowa Democratic Party did eventually continue releasing results all the way to 100%. The results were finally reported for SC100 showing Bernie won there with 60.8% while Pete came in fourth with 8%. For some reason this did NOT seem to be reflected in the SDE totals, which still show Pete with a margin over Sanders in SDE’s at 0.1%, which was the same as it was before SC100’s results were reported and when 97% was reporting.

This also seems highly suspicious to me.

Later I was watching Ryan Grim from The Intercept appearing on The Hill’s Rising where he reveled this bit of news:

“There was reporting from DNC sources that said that the reason that Tom Perez made that announcement is because he saw Bernie Sanders surging in the satellite caucuses, and that bothered him.” [5]

Excuse me?

If this reporting is accurate, it looks just exactly like they stepped in to stop the process when they saw Sanders was about to win.

That sounds like corruption to me.

Ryan Grim also said, “It’s almost like they are baiting Bernie Sanders supporters to complain about the process.”

Considering everything I listed above, I’d say he’s right about that.

At this point I don’t know if they will recanvas or not. Even though Pete started complaining when it looked like Bernie was about to take the lead, I don’t know that that would be the same as making a formal request which seems to be what is required. Possibly he is no longer interested considering the results are still showing him in the lead by 0.1% in SDEs. But Perez now says he was actually only requesting a “surgical” recanvassing of isolated precincts (but are just looking at isolated precincts a good idea, if we recall Gore v. Bush)?

I have some questions to say the least:

Why did they make the decision to release the results the way they did, piecemeal and in that order, saving earlier reported results until last?  

Did SC100 and whatever else was left to be reported when they were stalled at 97% reporting have ZERO effect on the SDEs? And why did they stop and Perez and Pete express concern, if it wasn’t going to have any?

Will they try to sort out all the errors reported? Will it get into a debate regarding how the rules are interpreted? Will any of this or a “surgical” recanvassing cause either big or small changes in the results? Will anyone be able to trust the results or trust Perez with recanvassing?

This whole thing has been TOTALLY botched, possibly beyond any repair. AP seemed to be the most responsible news source reporting about this when they said because of all the issues, there’s no way to declare a winner.

“The Associated Press calls a race when there is a clear indication of a winner. Because of a tight margin between former Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders and the irregularities in this year’s caucus process, it is not possible to determine a winner at this point,” [6]

Russia can save it’s money this year. The Democratic Party seems perfectly capable of undermining confidence in the system by itself.

Tom Perez should step down.