Political Notebook

Al Franken

Donnelly's Secret Santa, Al Franken, is talented, thrifty

Back in his comedy days, Al Franken of "Saturday Night Live" fame was known for his ability to draw a map of America's 48 contiguous states and the Great Lakes in about two minutes.

Franken more or less swore off comedy when he became a Democratic U.S. senator from Minnesota in 2009. But he proved recently he can still draw a map.

Franken, the organizer of a yearly Secret Santa gift exchange among senators, drew Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., in last week's swap and gave him a U.S. map – including Alaska and Hawaii – he had drawn from memory.

It included arrows and notes of geographic importance to Donnelly: "You were born on Long Island!" "You went to Notre Dame!! (where you met Jill!!!)" "You represent Indiana!!"

Senators had a $15 maximum on gifts. In a story broadcast by NPR, congressional correspondent Tamara Keith reported that Franken had been able to keep his cost to the price of a sheet of paper.

"And then whatever the Sharpie cost, but I can amortize that over other maps," Franken told Keith.

Donnelly's office said he gave a book about President John F. Kennedy to Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.