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Rick Santorum hopes to sweeten campaign pot with Jelly Belly visit

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At first glance, Rick Santorum's decision to give a speech at the Jelly Belly Company's factory in Fairfield, Calif., seems a little odd.

But Jelly Belly isn't just any candy maker. The company -- best known for making jelly beans that taste like buttered popcorn and other interesting flavors -- is a major supporter of conservative causes and one of the few corporations to make direct contributions to a super PAC.

And this isn't just a speech -- the former Republican senator from Pennsylvania and GOP presidential contender is hosting a $1,000-a-head fundraiser to help his cash-strapped campaign, inside the factory, at the conclusion of the speech.

"Jelly Belly Candy Company looks forward to discussing sugar reform with presidential candidate Rick Santorum when he visits our Fairfield factory on Thursday, March 29," reads a company statement.

Jelly Belly has long been tied to Republicans, with President Ronald Reagan ranking as its most famous fan. (A portrait of the Gipper, who served the brand at his inauguration and in the Oval Office, made from 10,000 of the company's candies hangs in his presidential library.)

In September 2010, Jelly Belly became one of the few companies to take advantage of the post-Citizens United campaign finance laws, making a $10,000 corporate donation to Citizens for Economic & National Security, which was created to support California Republicans.

That amount made up nearly 20 percent of the super PAC's receipts.

Citizens was active in the battle between Democratic challenger Ami Bera and incumbent Republican Rep. Dan Lungren. The super PAC spent $35,000 in negative ads against Bera, who ended up losing to Lungren by seven percentage points.

When the Citizens United decision was handed down by the Supreme Court, the immediate concern was that corporations would flood the system with cash. Instead, super PACs are more likely to receive contributions from a handful of wealthy individuals than a corporate treasury.

A spokeswoman for Jelly Belly did not return a request for comment on its political donations.

Jelly Belly's chairman of the board and owner of the privately held corporation, Herman Rowland, is a frequent donor to conservative candidates and groups.

Since 2009, Rowland has donated more than $100,000 to federal political causes, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. That includes a $10,000 donation to Club for Growth Action, a pro-free market super PAC known for targeting incumbent Republicans seen as too liberal.

Rowland has also been personally active in the presidential race, giving to a number of candidates. He gave $2,500 both to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who dropped out of the race, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the frontrunner, as well as $1,000 to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Now, it seems, it's Santorum's turn. 

Continue this story and read more investigations at iWatch News

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