Some take the staid, no-photo approach: President Obama's 2009 card includes only a presidential seal surrounded by a wreath, and a brief message. For others, it's an opportunity to show off the attractiveness (the Bidens), size (the Huntsmans), or theatricality (the Vitters) of their family. Others get creative: Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, wrote a hymn. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., followed up previous years' cards—featuring her cat wearing sunglasses or her cat riding a motorcycle—with an image of herself ballroom dancing while her cat looks on. Delegate Madeleine Bordallo of Guam goes for the Murder She Wrote look, while the card of Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., features his two daughters posing in a field of daisies. Some, like Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, go for a personal touch with a handwritten note. Others have a whiff of last-minute planning: Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., sent out a lovely card that happens to be available at the Senate gift shop.
The tradition doesn't come cheap. Since 2003, congressional candidates have spent more than $5.3 million on holiday presents, decorations, and events. Sanchez's cards alone totaled more than $914,000 over the last seven years. (Hence the PDF versions she sent out this year.) The good news is, the taxpayer isn't on the hook. All holiday cards are paid for by a member's campaign committee or out of pocket.
Click here to see a slide show of some of 2009's best political holiday cards.