ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Bristol Palin was well worth the $332,500 she was paid to be an ambassador for a foundation aiming to prevent teen pregnancy, the organization's founder said Wednesday.
In her 2009 debut with The Candies Foundation, the unwed mother and daughter of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was paid $262,500 for 15 to 20 days of work, and another $70,000 for a less amount of work last year.
The money spent has been "an amazing investment," according to foundation founder Neil Cole.
The fact that the 20-year-old Bristol Palin was a teen mother herself shows the problem is a national epidemic, not one limited to inner cities or minorities, Cole said.
Her work advocating abstinence through public service announcements, media interviews and TV and radio spots amounts to more than a billion impressions on people, he said, citing a study conducted by the foundation.
"Someone said in our organization today, Bristol's the gift that keeps on giving," he said.
Palin family attorney John Tiemessen did not immediately return requests for comment Wednesday.
Bristol Palin was 18 when she took the job with the New York-based foundation in 2009, months after giving birth to son, Tripp. She and the boy's father, Levi Johnston, are no longer together.
Her pregnancy was announced days after Sen. John McCain picked her mother to be his Republican vice presidential running mate in 2008.
Bristol Palin told The Associated Press last year she "wasn't prepared at all" for the dramatic changes in her life since giving birth in December 2008.
"It changes literally every aspect of your life, and if girls realized how hard it was to be a teen mom, they would think twice about having sex without the proper education and proper knowledge," she said.
Palin is no longer on the payroll, but she remains a friend of the organization, Cole said.
"She has done incredible work," he said. "She's been bold enough — yes she's been paid for her work — but she's bold enough to get in and talk about it."
Public service announcements by Palin and another celebrity, Jenny McCarthy, are far more effective than those featuring non-celebrities, according to a survey of 1,000 teens commissioned in January by the foundation.
A third of respondents said Palin's message made them consider the consequences of teen pregnancy, compared with 16 percent for non-celebrities. Among those surveyed, 57 percent said Palin got their attention and 41 percent called her message powerful, compared with no more than 28 percent and 11 percent, respectively, for non-celebrities.
The Candie's Foundation is a division of the apparel brand Candie's. Cole said there were 1 million teen pregnancies a year when the foundation first started in 2001, compared with the current rate of 750,000 annually.
Bloggers have criticized the organization for paying Palin more than seven times the $35,000 in grants it issued in 2009 to two organizations that tax documents called "public charities providing services to teenagers at risk." Cole said there is no basis for that criticism.
"That's not what we do for a living," he said. "What we do for a living is create awareness."