The Candy Desk

If there’s one thing American Senators can agree upon, it’s that candy should be available at all times.

Senate rules prohibit eating on the Senate floor, but in 1965, Senator George Murphy of California decided he did not really care for that rule.   Having a bit of a sweet tooth, Senator Murphy kept his desk stocked with candy.  After the 1968 election cycle, Murphy’s desk moved closer to a location with more foot traffic, and over time, it became a destination in and of itself — a destination, that is, for his colleagues in search of a sugary snack.

But in 1970, Murphy lost his re-election campaign to Democratic Representative John V. Tunney, and with it, Murphy’s desk drawer full of candy seemed destined for history’s footnotes.   But Senator Paul Fannin of Arizona — who entered the Senate in the same class as Murphy — took up the mantle.  Since then, the tradition has endured, peaking (so far) from 1997-2007, when Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania) sat at the candy desk.  Senate ethics rules prohibit members from receiving gifts from a single source worth in excess of $100 per year, but there is a loophole: if the gift-giving organization is from the Senator’s state, and the product is mostly gifted in order to be shared with people outside the Senator and his or her staff, that gift is permitted.  With Hershey as one of Santorum’s constituents, he was able to source mountains of candy — 100 pounds each quarter, per the Wall Street Journal — over the course of his decade as the candy man.  (Assuming 400 pounds a year, that is two tons of candy over that time period.)

Today, a visit to the desk of first-term Senator Mark Kirk (Illinois) will yield a bounty of Wrigley’s Gum, Jelly Belly jelly beans, and Tootsie Rolls — each of which are produced in Illinois.  If you have the opportunity to see for yourself — in a safe, legal sense, that is — Kirk’s seat is #24 on this chart, and you can see images of the desk, closed without candy displayed, here.


Bonus fact: During the War of 1812, British soldiers burned the building (predating today’s Capitol) which housed Congress.  After the war, the then-48 Senators required desks, so they ordered them from a New York craftsman for $34 apiece.  Those desks are still in use today, although one, used at one point by Confederate President Jefferson Davis, was almost destroyed by Union soldiers in protest of Davis’ treachery.

RelatedFive pounds of Tootsie Rolls, in case you’re having a few dozen Senators over for dinner.