Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

Dark Day for Senate Chocoholics

February 18, 2011 by Sayeh Hormozi


Clutching their stomachs and shaking their fists at remnants of candy packaging, young and old alike are currently suffering from a week-long, sugar-induced hangover. Lovers are cursing the passing of yet another Valentine’s Day and with it, their inability to learn from the epic sugar crashes of previous years.

A glucose-spiked stupor coupled with elbowing your way to the hostess stand at a swanky restaurant or standing in serpentine lines to buy grass-fed beef at Whole Foods for a V-day at home—an idea you thought was completely novel—make it easy to find yourself wondering how the heck you buy into this circus every year.

The Senate Candy drawer, courtesy of

The answer is simple. Candy. So, we suck on conversation hearts while we tap our toes in long lines and daydream about red, foil covered chocolate hearts and genetically modified, mammoth strawberries dipped in chocolate, to pass the time. Everyone (almost) enjoys chocolate, or at the very least enjoys watching Johnny Depp in the movie of the same name.

United States Senators are no different (even about Johnny Depp). For the past four decades, the Senate Candy Desk has been a time-honored tradition dating back to 1968, when a Republican with a sweet tooth began stocking his desk with treats. George Murphy of California informally doled out the candy to his fellow senators in need of a little boost before a filibuster.

Situated in the back row of the Republican side of the chamber, near the always crowded elevators, his seat quickly became a popular gathering spot. Following his short-lived, single term in Congress, senators were left feeling a little sad and sugarless (see aforementioned hangover). To battle the bonbon blues, they came together and decided that candy’s great stuff and perhaps they should designate someone to head up an official Candy Desk, and thus a new senatorial tradition was born.

To battle the bonbon blues, they came together and decided that candy’s great stuff and perhaps they should designate someone to head up an official Candy Desk, and thus a new senatorial tradition was born.

Desk duties have evolved over the years, and now come with certain stipulations. The purveyor of the congressional treats must only distribute candy made in their home state, for example. Also, in a chamber where senators are seated by seniority—the most senior sitting at the front, and the most junior in the cheap seats way back—the honor is such that a senior senator, like Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, will give up his good seat to sit in the back just to dole out candy from home.

For senatorial chocolate lovers, memories of his decade-long tenure are no doubt mouth-watering. The Hershey Company of Hershey, PA helped Santorum keep the desk stocked with everything from Kisses to Reese’s Pieces and others from the Hershey’s arsenal. One can imagine the panic that ensued when the late Senator Craig Thomas of Wyoming inherited the sweet gig after Santorum was not reelected in 2006. Wyoming, after all, is not exactly known for its sugary side as it is for it’s…elk? And even though some independent Wyoming candy makers tried to fill the desk with the native, chocolate moose (no, not mousse) droppings, it just didn’t take. Like you, I too was shocked. In the four years since Santorum’s departure, the desk has been plagued with controversy and has been in four different senators’ charge.

Recent candy drawer history

  • 1994: PA - Rick Santorum
  • 2006: WY - Craig Thomas
  • 2007: OH - George Voinovich

So when another Pennsylvanian, Senator Pat Toomey was up for the job, it looked like Hershey’s was set for a solid comeback. One can just envision senators from the Santorum era twitching at the thought of another term filled with Almond Joys…or Mounds depending on their penchant for nuts. However, Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois dashed any such dreams when he won the bid for the prestigious, saccharine seat.  Senators with a sweet tooth need not despair however; Illinois is home to such candy giants as Wrigley’s, Garrett’s Popcorn, Tootsie Rolls, and Jelly Belly. And although Tootsie Rolls don’t really count as chocolate, Jelly Belly has Chocolate Dips—the signature jelly beans dipped in…you guessed it.

So even though we, the people are recovering from a chocolate drenched Valentine’s Day, and going back on the diets we started January 1st (and quit around the 4th), I think we can all agree that candy has a way of brightening a day, putting a smile on a face, and adding a little pep to the step—all things that might make solving the nation’s myriad issues a little more palatable for our elected officials. After all, who can really be angry when chewing an Apple Pie a la Mode Jelly Belly?

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