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Episode 2: Crying at work

Jun 20, 2019

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Marketplace Tech

The sweet story behind the U.S. Senate ‘candy desk’

David Gura Sep 12, 2014
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U.S. Senators, as one might surmise, rarely pass up an opportunity to tout their home states – what businesses are based there, what products are made there – and that trait is on display in an unusual place. It’s at a spot in the back of the Senate chamber, known as the “candy desk.”

The history of the U.S. Senate’s candy desk goes back to 1965. Donald Ritchie, the head of the Senate Historical Office, says Sen. George Murphy (R-CA), “an old song-and-dance man,” had a sweet tooth.

“Sen. Murphy filled his desk drawer with candies, which he dipped into,” Ritchie says. “And then he invited his colleagues to stop whenever they wanted to.”

Murphy lost his seat in 1970, but the tradition continued. The desk, which is right by the main door to the Senate chamber, currently belongs to Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL). “You have a chance to sell your state’s products there,” he says. “Or talk about stuff.”

Today, it is chock full of candies manufactured in the Land of Lincoln. For Kirk, a fan of Chicago’s Ferrara Candy Company, it’s personal.

“They offered me all of the desks on the Republican side, and I wanted to make sure that those bastards in Hershey, Penn., couldn’t get the candy desk,” he says, laughing.

Kirk is referring, of course, to the Hershey Candy Company, which had a monopoly on senators’ sweets for years. The desk used to belong to Rick Santorum, and the former Republican senator from Pennsylvania filled it with Kit Kats and Kisses.

I asked all 100 senators to name their favorite candies, and they all seem partial to what is manufactured back home. New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen likes dark chocolate salted caramels from Granite State Candy, for instance. Georgia’s Jonny Isakson likes Snickers, which include, he points out, Georgia peanuts.

The desk has suited some senators better than others. George Voinovich represented Ohio, a state not known for its confections. So, his tenure at the candy desk didn’t last long. “I think it was one year,” he recalls. “That was enough.”

George LeMieux used to sit at the desk. “I used to joke that it was an unfunded mandate that I had to provide candy for the rest of my senators,” he says. “But I was happy to do so.”

Kirk, the man currently charged with filling the candy desk’s drawers, likes Jelly Belly-brand jelly beans, and there are plenty of those in the candy desk, but he also stocks it with baby aspirin. He had a stroke in 2012, and a small daily dose of the pain killer, he tells his colleagues and constituents, can prevent strokes and heart attacks.

While this means there is less room for Illinois candy, Kirk is able to draw attention to another constituent: the company that makes the aspirin is based outside of Chicago. 

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The preferred candies of your elected officials

They may not be in charge of the candy desk, but we wanted to know anyway: What are your senator’s favorite sweets? Below, a yearbook of the candies that melt hearts and minds:

Tammy Baldwin

D-Wisconsin

Ghiradelli Intense Dark 72% Cacao Twilight Delight Singles

Richard Blumenthal

D-Connecticut

Wint-O-Green Life Savers

Roy Blunt

R-Missouri

No comment

John Boozman

R-Arkansas

Jelly Belly jelly beans

Sherrod Brown

D-Ohio

Milky Way

Ben Cardin

D-Maryland

Goetze’s Original Vanilla Caramel Creams

Tom Carper

D-Delaware

York Peppermint Pattie

Bob Casey

D-Pennsylvania

Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars

Tom Coburn

R-Oklahoma

Hot Tamales

Thad Cochran

R-Mississippi

Chocolate covered peanuts

Susan Collins

R-Maine

Maine maple sugar candy

Mike Crapo

R-Idaho

Snickers

Dick Durbin

D-Illinois

Dark Chocolate Snickers

Mike Enzi

R-Wyoming

Big Hunk

Dianne Feinstein

D-California

See’s Candies Dark Chocolate

Jeff Flake

R-Arizona

3 Musketeers

Kirsten Gillibrand

D-New York

No candy

Tom Harkin

D-Iowa

Brach’s Hard Candy

Orrin Hatch

R-Utah

Jelly beans

Martin Heinrich

D-New Mexico

Dark chocolate with sea salt

Dean Heller

R-Nevada

Cinnamon bears

Mazie Hirono

D-Hawaii

Snickers

John Hoeven

R-North Dakota

Life Savers Gummies

Johnny Isakson

R-Georgia

Snickers

Ron Johnson

R-Wisconsin

Milky Way

Tim Johnson

D-South Dakota

Chocolate

Tim Kaine

D-Virginia

No candy, Dr. Pepper

Angus King

I-Maine

Peppermint

Mark Kirk

R-Illinois

Jelly Belly jelly beans

Mary Landrieu

D-Louisiana

Snickers

Patrick Leahy

D-Vermont

Anything chocolate

Mike Lee

R-Utah

Jelly beans

Joe Manchin

D-West Virginia

Peanuts

Ed Markey

D-Massachusetts

Milky Way Dark

Mitch McConnell

R-Kentucky

No candy

Robert Menendez

D-New Jersey

Dark Chocolate M&M’s

Barbara Mikulski

D-Maryland

No candy

Jerry Moran

R-Kansas

Peanut M&M’s

Chris Murphy

D-Connecticut

Twix

Patty Murray

D-Washington

Dark chocolate peanut butter cups

Bill Nelson

D-Florida

None

Rand Paul

R-Kentucky

Snickers

Jack Reed

D-Rhode Island

Baby Ruth

Harry Reid

D-Nevada

Nuts

James Risch

R-Idaho

Butterfinger

Jay Rockefeller

D-West Virginia

Baby Ruth

Marco Rubio

R-Florida

No comment

Bernie Sanders

I-Vermont

No comment

Brian Schatz

D-Hawaii

Cinnamon hard candy

Chuck Schumer

D-New York

Snickers

Jeanne Shaheen

D-New Hampshire

Red licorice and chocolate salted caramels from Granite State Candy

Jon Tester

R-Montana

Butterfinger

John Thune

R-South Dakota

Twin Bing

Pat Toomey

R-Pennsylvania

3 Musketeers

Mark Udall

D-Colorado

Toffee from Enstrom Candies (Grand Junction, CO)

Tom Udall

D-New Meixco

Dark chocolate spiced with New Mexico red chile

John Walsh

D-Montana

Baby Ruth and Milky Way Midnight

Elizabeth Warren

D-Massachusetts

Mounds

Sheldon Whitehouse

D-Rhode Island

Milky Way Dark

Ron Wyden

D-Oregon

Milk chocolate

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