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Much of "real America" is struggling to make ends meet right now -- but not Bristol Palin, who is raking in big bucks as an abstinence speaker. According to the Associated Press, newly released tax forms reveal that the former teen mom was paid $262,500 dollars last year as an ambassador for The Candie's Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing teen pregnancy. That's a shockingly big salary for what is essentially charity work. And here's an even bigger shocker: Bristol's salary was seven times what the foundation actually spent on abstinence education and pregnancy prevention!
According to their filing, The Candie's Foundation only gave out $35,000 in grants to teen pregnancy health and counseling clinics. The rest of the funds went to Palin's salary, plus a TV advertising budget of $165,000 -- which funded that memorably awkward conversation between Palin and Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino. Naturally, this begs the question: Is putting Bristol Palin's face in magazine ads really the best use of the abstinence-education foundation's limited budget?
The Candie's Foundation says that they got what they paid for: teenagers' attention. In a statement responding to the controversy, the organization claims that more than twice as many teens responded positively to the Bristol Palin PSA than to ads featuring non-famous teens. "Bristol... has been a courageous and powerful partner to the foundation as we attempt to discourage teen pregnancy," says the statement. An insider also told E! that it is "not out of the ordinary for a celebrity to make an income off of a charity they represent."
Be that as it may, Bristol's huge pay-out only amplifies the problem with her endorsement in the first place: She's preaching the hardships of teen pregnancy while appearing to suffer very few of them herself. The Candie's Foundation says that Palin is getting the normal "celebrity" treatment, but the fact is, she's a celebrity because she had a baby when she was 17 (and, of course, because that's couple with the fact that her mom is Sarah Palin). Would Bristol have gone on to get a six-figure job, or do Dancing With the Stars, or publish her memoir (her next big project) if she had practiced the abstinence she preaches?
To be fair, Bristol didn't drop out of high school. She graduated at 18 with a 3.497 GPA and plans on going to college. But as the Washington Post points out, half of teen mothers don't graduate high school before 22. Bristol is an anomaly, a success story in a situation with very few of them. The Candie's Foundation says they're reaching billions of teenagers, but what do those teenagers actually see when they look at a Bristol Palin abstinence ad? Does it give them a sobering reminder of the reality of teen motherhood -- or does it make them think that a teenage girl with a baby really can have it all?