By Yereth Rosen
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - The head of a nonprofit group against teen pregnancy on Wednesday defended the $332,500 his organization paid Bristol Palin over a two-year period to advocate for sexual abstinence.
"Bristol did a tremendous amount of work for us -- many, many days and weeks," said Neil Cole, founder of the nonprofit Candie's Foundation.
Bristol Palin, the 20-year old daughter of former Alaska Governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, was paid $262,500 by Candie's Foundation for her work in 2009, which was detailed in financial statements from the nonprofit organization.
In 2010, when her schedule was filled with other commitments including a high-profile run on ABC television show "Dancing with the Stars," she was paid a lesser amount of $70,000, a spokeswoman said on behalf of the nonprofit.
Bristol Palin, then 18, was pregnant during the 2008 presidential campaign and her son was born in the month after the election. She and the boy's father, Levi Johnston, had a much-publicized breakup.
The New York-based foundation is an offshoot of the fashion brand Candie's, which is part of Iconix Brand Group Inc. Cole is chairman, CEO and president of Iconix.
Sarah Palin has generated controversy almost from the moment 2008 Republican presidential contender Sen. John McCain named her as his running mate, and Cole said that applies to Bristol Palin also, which helps his organization.
"She is such a lightning rod," Cole said. "Everyone is familiar with the Palins, and Bristol turned out to be, as someone said today, the gift that keeps on giving."
A survey of 1,000 teens that the foundation commissioned shows Bristol Palin was slightly more effective than actress and model Jenny McCarthy, who also appeared in a public service announcement for the organization.
Thirty-three percent of teens said Bristol Palin's publicity spot conveyed the importance of thinking about the consequences of teen pregnancy, versus 27 percent for McCarthy.
Some commentators had criticized the payments to Bristol Palin.
But Cole defended the foundation's 2009 practice of spending only $35,000 on direct health and assistance services, versus the money paid to Bristol Palin.
The foundation's purpose is not to make grants to direct providers, but to raise awareness, he said.
"We're very proud of our work," Cole said.
(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by )