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Candy Desk

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Candy Desk
Above: the Candy Desk.
Below: the location of the Candy Desk in the United States Senate.
Created1965 by California Senator George Murphy
Present locationUnited States Senate Chamber. Yellow highlighting in diagram represents location.
IdentificationIndiana Senator Todd Young

The candy desk has been a tradition of the United States Senate since 1965, whereby a senator who sits at a particular desk near a busy entrance keeps a drawer full of candy for members of the body. The current occupant of the candy desk is Indiana Senator Todd Young.

In 1965, California's George Murphy joined the Senate, and kept candy in his desk for himself and his colleagues, despite eating being prohibited on the Senate floor. When he left the Senate after a six-year term, other Republican senators maintained the custom. The tradition did not become publicly known until the mid-1980s, when Washington Senator Slade Gorton revealed it in announcing that he would be sitting at the candy desk.[1]

Aside from Murphy, a total of 18 senators have maintained the candy desk tradition, including John McCain, Harrison Schmitt, and Rick Santorum, who stocked it with confectionery from his home state of Pennsylvania, including from the Hershey Chocolate Company.[2] After Santorum left the Senate in 2007, the candy desk was maintained by a number of senators for a short time each, before Pennsylvania Senator Toomey kept the desk from 2015 to 2023.


George Murphy, a one-term senator from California, is considered the founder of the candy desk tradition.

George Murphy was elected as the senator from California in 1964, to take office the following year.[3] Murphy, known as a song-and-dance man from musicals such as Broadway Melody of 1938, Broadway Melody of 1940 and For Me and My Gal, had a taste for sweets. A short time after joining the Senate, he began keeping candy in his desk. In 1968, he moved desks and ended up at the spot where the candy desk is now situated. Since more senators now passed his desk on a daily basis, he started offering the contents of his desk to his colleagues. Senators who were invited to partake in the sweets started calling Murphy's desk the "candy desk". Murphy was defeated in the 1970 Senate elections, but subsequent senators have carried on the tradition of supplying candy in their desk for the enjoyment of the Senate as a whole.[4]

Paul Fannin, Harrison Schmitt, Roger Jepsen, and Steve Symms all respectively continued the new candy desk tradition after Murphy's term was over. Fannin, Schmitt, and Jepsen supplied only hard candy, but Symms was the first to stock sweets supplied by "candy and chocolate associations."[5] During the tenures of these senators, the candy desk was not fixed to one particular spot. Senate seating charts show Schmitt, during his time with the candy desk, sat one seat to the right of its traditional spot for the 95th Congress, and then across the aisle from the traditional spot for the 96th.[6][7]

The existence of the tradition was not publicly known until 1985, when Slade Gorton put out a press release stating "He was now the occupant of this desk and would carry on the rich traditions started by Murphy."[5] He also named the past senators who had continued the tradition.[5]

In 1997, the candy desk was referenced by Kit Bond during a debate over the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 1998. He compared the sizes of microchips to candy he had taken from the desk.[8]

Rick Santorum sat at the candy desk from 1997 to 2007. Being a senator from Pennsylvania, he filled the candy desk with Hershey candy and Just Born products (such as Mike and Ike and Hot Tamales).[9] During this period, Hershey shipped roughly 100 pounds of chocolate and other candy four times a year for Santorum to fill the desk with.[10] When Santorum failed to get re-elected in the 2006 U.S. Senate elections, Hershey stopped supplying the desk. "We were pleased to be a small part of sweetening up congressional proceedings" said Kirk Saville, a spokesman for Hershey.[9]

After Santorum's electoral defeat, Senator Craig Thomas began sitting at the desk. Wyoming, the state he was representing, has no members of the National Confectioners Association, and therefore no candymakers large enough to donate hundreds of dollars of candy to fill the desk. Senate ethics rules "forbid members accepting gifts worth $100 or more a year from a single source,"[9] which can become a problem if a large amount of candy is consumed from the desk each year. An exception to this rule allows larger gifts of objects created or produced in the state the senator is from, as long as the items are primarily not used by the senator and his staff. This is so senators can "offer visitors home-grown snacks, such as Florida orange juice or Georgia peanuts."[9]

When asked about Thomas being in charge of the candy desk, Susan Smith, a representative from the National Confectioners Association, stated, "We're happy to provide candy if there are [association] members...It would be difficult for us to do now."[9] These issues were worked around by asking many small, local, Wyoming confectionery businesses and chocolatiers to give small amounts of candy that were rotated in and out of the desk.[11]

After Thomas's death in 2007, it was looked after by George Voinovich and then Mel Martinez.[12][13] Both had relatively short tenures. In 2009, George LeMieux, Martinez's successor, began sitting at the desk[14] and was there until he left the Senate in 2011. Mark Kirk of Illinois occupied the desk from 2011 to 2015.

The desk received renewed attention in 2020, during the first impeachment trial of Donald Trump, when a candy bar originating from the desk was spotted being eaten by Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy during proceedings.[15]


The candy desk is not a specific desk in the Senate Chamber, but rather a specific seating within the chamber, and any desk that the senator seated in that position chooses to use becomes the candy desk.[9] The desk's location has remained static since at least the 97th Congress (1981–1983). It is next to the eastern door to the senate chamber.[16] Most senators enter the chamber through this door, which is adjacent to elevators leading to one of the stops on the United States Capitol subway system.[4]

The desk is the first desk on the right, or Republican, side, and is in the last row of desks.[4] Traditionally, the candy desk is always on the Republican side of the Senate Chamber and is used by a Republican senator.[17] Since 2023, the desk has been occupied by Indiana Senator Todd Young.[18]

Other candy desks[edit]

The Democrats have also had a candy desk since at least 1985.[19] A rolltop desk located on the front wall, belonging to the United States Senate Democratic Conference Secretary, is also filled with sweets. This tradition began "sometime later" than the better known candy desk;[13] Hershey Kisses were the most popular candy from this desk during the 1980s, followed by small caramels.[20] Candy for this desk is paid for through a "candy fund" to which senators who would like to partake of the desk's contents contribute.[13] Until he left the Senate in 2015, Jay Rockefeller was responsible for collecting the money and purchasing the candy. This tradition is less widely known; a 2009 article claimed that even the Historian of the United States Senate does not know much about it.[19]

Other senators sometimes keep candy in their desks as well. Katherine Buck, a United States Senate Page at the time, wrote in 2005:[citation needed]

One senator with a particularly strong hankering for chocolate is Jim Talent from Missouri. Once during a vote, he called people away from the candy desk to his own on the other side of the row. There were oohs and aahs until six people walked away with Russell Stover Low-Carb Chocolates. (I guess the Atkins craze had made its way to the Senate.)


Dates Senator State Candy brands Ref.
1965 – January 3, 1971 George Murphy California [3][5]
January 21, 1971 – December 31, 1976 Paul Fannin Arizona Hard candies [5][21]
January 4, 1977 – January 15, 1979 Richard G. Lugar Indiana Hard candies [5]
January 5, 1981 – January 3, 1983 Roger Jepsen Iowa Hard candies [5][22]
January 3, 1983 – January 3, 1985 Steve Symms Idaho "Fine assortment of sweets" from "candy and chocolate associations." [5][23]
January 3, 1985 – January 3, 1987 Slade Gorton Washington "'Ample quantities' of candies made in his home state" [5][20][24]
January 3, 1987 – January 3, 1989 John McCain Arizona [4][25]
January 3, 1989 – January 5, 1993 Slade Gorton Washington [20][26]
January 5, 1993 – January 3, 1995 Jim Jeffords Vermont [20][27]
January 4, 1995 – January 7, 1997 Bob Bennett Utah [4][28]
January 7, 1997 – January 3, 2007 Rick Santorum Pennsylvania The Hershey Company and Just Born products [9]
January 3, 2007 – June 4, 2007 Craig Thomas Wyoming Small local Wyoming confectionery businesses and chocolatiers [9][11]
June 25, 2007 – January 3, 2009 George Voinovich Ohio Spangler Dum Dum Pops, Mars, Incorporated products, and Harry London [12][29]
January 3, 2009 – September 9, 2009 Mel Martinez Florida [13][30]
September 10, 2009 – January 3, 2011 George LeMieux Florida "Mini Hershey bars and Werther's Originals" [14]
February 14, 2011 – January 7, 2015 Mark Kirk Illinois Wrigley's Gum, Garrett's Popcorn, Tootsie Rolls and Jelly Belly [31][32]
January 7, 2015 – January 3, 2023 Pat Toomey Pennsylvania Just Born Quality Confections, Josh Early Candies, Mars products (3 Musketeers), Hershey products [33]
January 3, 2023 - present Todd Young Indiana Albanese Candy gummies, milk chocolate, Red Hots, Toxic Waste (from Indianapolis-based Candy Dynamics), Sour Punch Straws (from La Porte-based American Licorice Co.), caramels, jumbo and chocolate-covered jelly beans, Buckeyes, mini chocolate bars and rock crystal candy sticks [34][35][36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Secret candy desk puts sugar coating on US Senate business". The Times of Israel. October 12, 2021. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  2. ^ Saenz, Arlette (January 15, 2015). "Meet Pat Toomey: The Senate's Candy Man". ABC News. Retrieved October 18, 2022.
  3. ^ a b "George Murphy and the Candy Desk". Senate Chamber desks. U.S. Senate. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e Baker, Richard A. "Traditions of the United States Senate" (PDF). United States Senate. Retrieved November 8, 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Gerste, Steve (May 8, 1985). "The candy man". Durant Daily Democrat. Retrieved November 19, 2012.
  6. ^ 1977 Official Congressional Directory (PDF). Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. p. 467. Retrieved November 8, 2012.
  7. ^ 1979 Official Congressional Directory (PDF). Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. p. unnumbered. Retrieved November 8, 2012.
  8. ^ "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1998 (Senate debate)". Congressional Record. July 10, 1997. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Lueck, Sarah (January 5, 2007). "In new Senate, the 'Candy Desk' gets a kiss-off". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 2, 2023.
  10. ^ Straub, Noelle (January 7, 2007). "Senate candy desk duties fall to Wyoming senator". Helena Independent Record. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
  11. ^ a b Straub, Noelle (November 9, 2012). "Sticky solution: Thomas toes ethics line on candy question". Caspar Star-Tribune.
  12. ^ a b Romano, Lois (August 12, 2007). "One Sweet Role: Ohio Senator takes over candy desk". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved November 9, 2012.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ a b c d Kennedy, Edward. True Compass: A Memoir. New York: Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0446539252.
  14. ^ a b Clark, Lesley (December 7, 2009). "George LeMieux: The Candy Man". The Miami Herald. Retrieved November 19, 2012.
  15. ^ Vigdor, Neil (January 22, 2020). "Where Senators Get Their Sugar Fix During the Impeachment Trial". The New York Times. Retrieved October 18, 2022.
  16. ^ "Candy Desk". Sen. Mark Kirk. Archived from the original on November 13, 2012. Retrieved November 19, 2012.
  17. ^ Skiba, Katherine (October 11, 2011). "Guardian of the nation's sweet tooth". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 8, 2012.
  18. ^ Villalpando, Sarah (November 1, 2012). "Washington, D.C., up close and personal". Park-La Brea News. Archived from the original on February 2, 2014. Retrieved November 8, 2012.
  19. ^ a b Brotherton, Elizabeth; Heil, Emily (January 20, 2009). "Heard on the Hill: The Candy Men Can". Roll Call. Retrieved November 19, 2012.
  20. ^ a b c d Roberts, Stephen V. (January 5, 1987). "Hot Seats: Senators are rigid about which desks they occupy". The Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved November 19, 2012.[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ Congressional Directory 92nd Congress First Session. United States Government Printing Office. 1971. Retrieved January 15, 2011
  22. ^ 1981 Official Congressional Directory. United States Government Printing Office. 1981. Retrieved January 15, 2011
  23. ^ 1983–1984 Official Congressional Directory. United States Government Printing Office. 1983. Retrieved January 15, 2011
  24. ^ 1985–1986 Official Congressional Directory. United States Government Printing Office. 1985. Retrieved January 15, 2011
  25. ^ 1987–1988 Official Congressional Directory. United States Government Printing Office. 1987. Retrieved January 15, 2011
  26. ^ 1989–1990 Official Congressional Directory. United States Government Printing Office. 1989. Retrieved January 15, 2011
  27. ^ 1993–1994 Official Congressional Directory. United States Government Printing Office. 1993. Retrieved January 15, 2011
  28. ^ 1997–1998 Official Congressional Directory. United States Government Printing Office. 1997. Retrieved January 15, 2011
  29. ^ Senate Chamber Map: 110th Congress. United States Senate. Retrieved January 15, 2011
  30. ^ "Senate Chamber Map, 111th Cong., 1st sess., April 30, 2009 – July 7, 2009". United States Senate. Retrieved November 8, 2012.
  31. ^ Toeplitz, Shira (February 13, 2011). "Mark Kirk: Senate candy man". Politico. Retrieved November 19, 2012.
  32. ^ Daily Herald staff (February 13, 2011). "Kirk will sit at 'Candy Desk'". Daily Herald. Arlington Heights, Illinois. Retrieved November 19, 2012.
  33. ^ Olson, Laura. "U.S. Senate 'candy desk' back in PA hands". themorningcall.com. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  34. ^ "U.S. Senate: The Senate's Candy Desk(s)". www.senate.gov. Retrieved January 27, 2023.
  35. ^ Herron, Arika (April 18, 2023). "Todd Young's sweet spot in the Senate". Axios. Retrieved April 19, 2023.
  36. ^ "Young Sharing Hoosier Sweets with Colleagues in Senate Candy Desk | U.S. Senator Todd Young of Indiana". www.young.senate.gov. Retrieved November 17, 2023.