Rick Santorum, the ‘Candy Man’

Mar 29, 2012 8:30am
gty jelly belly factory jp 120329 wblog Rick Santorum, the Candy Man

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When he lost his re-election bid in 2006, Pennsylvanian Rick Santorum also gave up the responsibility of upholding one of the longest traditions of the U.S Senate, maintaining the “candy desk.”

Santorum, who hails from a state with famed candy producers such as Hershey and Just Born Inc., which makes Hot Tamales and Mike and Ikes, stocked the drawer of the desk with candy for a decade from 1997 to 2007 before losing to Bob Casey.

“We were pleased to be a small part of sweetening up congressional proceedings,” Kirk Saville, a spokesman for Hershey, told the Wall Street Journal when Santorum lost his candy-desk duties.

Dating back to 1965, when it was started by Sen. George Murphy, R-Calif., a junior member of the Senate maintained the desk where senators can stop for a sweet treat. Despite rising in the ranks of the legislative body, Santorum kept control of the desk, which is located in the final row on the Republican side of the chamber closest to the most heavily trafficked entrance, as he rose in seniority.

Upon Santorum’s defeat, the candy desk fell into the hands of Sen. Craig Thomas , R-Wyo., whose state did not house large candy producers like Santorum’s. The desk is now maintained by Sen. Mark Kirk , R-Ill., who took it over in 2011 and stocks the desk with Illinois-made candies such as Mars, Milky Way and Snickers bars.

Although he no longer bears responsibility for the sweet-tooth tradition, Santorum is slated to deliver a foreign policy speech at the Jelly Belly Candy Co. in Fairfield, Calif. this afternoon. According to a news release from the Jelly Belly Co., executives hope to discuss the importance of U.S.  sugar program reform with the GOP presidential candidate while he visits the sweet company.

Like Santorum, the Jelly Belly Candy Co. has a long tradition with politics and confectionery goods. As governor of California, Ronald Reagan, whom Santorum regularly cites in his speeches on the campaign trail, received shipments of their jelly beans in the state capital, and when he became president, he kept their candy in the Oval Office, on Air Force One and Marine One.

Reagan even inspired one of the company’s famous Jelly Belly bean flavors – blueberry – which was developed so he could served red, white and blue candies at his presidential inauguration in 1981 when, according to the company, more than  three tons of Jelly Belly beans were consumed. Also, the president known as the “Gipper” was responsible for the first jelly beans in space when he sent them on the Challenger in 1983. A portrait of Reagan made of 10,000 jelly beans hangs in his presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif.

But while Santorum will speak at the company this afternoon, he has yet to reap the benefits of donations from the company’s leadership. According to Federal Election Commission reports, Herman Rowland, chairman of the company, maxed out in his donations to both Mitt Romney and former presidential candidate Rick Perry, and Robert Simpson, president of the Jelly Belly Candy Co., gave $1,000 to Perry’s campaign.

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