The search and advertising giant, which faces its share of scrutiny from European regulators, is no stranger to straight-on lobbying of government bureaucrats in Brussels. But what the Times is talking about here is “soft lobbying.” That means sponsoring things like concerts, art exhibits, or educational events—the sort of things that might persuade citizens that the company is not a heartless monopoly.
Based on “public filings and industry estimates,” the Times calculated that Google’s (goog) tab on this effort is about $450 million, ranging from 2015 through 2017. By contrast, the company spent just $4.8 million on old-fashioned lobbying of E.U. officials last year, the Times reported, citing Google’s own transparency report.
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So far the $450 million has paid for things such as a computer training for students in Ireland, a virtual reality art exhibit in Belgium, and other activities.
Google (goog) had no comment on the story, but given the regulatory issues the company faces in Europe, it’s understandable that the company wants to make nice with Europeans in the street.
Just last week, the E.U.’s anti-trust regulators brought another charge against Google, alleging that the company was blocking rivals in the online search advertising market.
European Commission Opens Google Anti-Trust Case
Google also faces tax issues in Europe where some in government accuse it (and other U.S. companies) of not paying their fair share. Last Sunday, Google chief executive Sundar Pichai pushed back against these claims. There are also worries in Europe about how and where Google, Microsoft (msft), and other U.S. IT providers store data from European citizens.
With all this unfavorable publicity, no wonder the company wants to put its best foot forward. $450 million isn’t chicken feed, but given that for its most-recently reported quarter, Google logged net income of $3.5 billion on sales of $20.3 billion, the company can afford it.