Placed strategically on the floor of the US Senate, in between the bitter conflict and partisan hackery , lies something sweet—literally. Since 1968, one Senator has had the privilege of storing candy in their desk for the rest of the Senate. This desk, which sits near a busy entrance, is aptly named the candy desk.
What started as a private practice when George Murphy, an actor and dancer who is the only Senator to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, was elected to the Senate in 1964 from California, soon became a sort of charity. Murphy stored sweets in his desk, and when his desk moved in 1968, so did his role in the Senate. He then began offering candy to passersby and ever since several Senators have maintained the sugary staple .
Unlike many government secrets, the candy desk was unknown to the public until 1985, when Senator Slade Gordon revealed that he had the pleasure of sitting in the desk, and outed all of the previous holders of the seat. The desk then remained highly regarded and preserved until 2007, when its supply chain was threatened.
Rick Santorum represented Pennsylvania in the Senate from 1995 to 2007, and sat in the candy desk from 1997 until 2007, when he lost his bid for reelection. Santorum had been filling the desk with sugary treats from Hershey and Just Born, two Pennsylvania-based candy companies. Four times a year, Hershey would send Santorum about $100 worth of candy to fill the desk. When he lost the seat, however, Wyoming Senator Craig Thomas assumed the seat, but his state had no candymakers large enough to send him hundreds of dollars of candy each year.
Senate ethics rules “forbid members accepting gifts worth $100 or more a year from a single source,” unless those gifts are from the Senator’s home state and are not used primarily by the Senator and their staff. Because of these rules, and in case of a particularly-indulgent year, Senator Thomas may have struggled to fill the desk. Luckily, other Senators offered to help fill the desk, and enough local, small, Wisconsin-based sweet shops were recruited to keep the desk in business.
After Thomas left the candy desk, several Senators filled the seat and assumed the duties of the desk. Since 2015, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey has supplied the Senate with Pennsylvania-based candy, much like Santorum before him.
Toomey isn’t running for reelection, however, and will leave his post on January 20, 2023. With the upcoming midterm elections promising a new seating arrangement, the fate and future contents of the candy desk are unknown, darkening the future of American democracy even further.