Bloomberg Tosses Money at GOP Foe

A pesky political rival gets an offer from mayor's aides

A law enforcement official said it would be difficult to show the offer to Ognibene violated the law. "You'd have a hell of a time proving intent," he said.

Ognibene, who campaigned with the mayor in 2001 in his Middle Village district, has long been vague about his own political intentions. Although Ognibene told reporters in 2003 and again last year that he intended to seek the mayoralty, he had also been quoted as saying that he didn't intend to run.

But on the night before the Starbucks meeting, Ognibene made up his mind. The decision came after he attended a raucous Republican gathering in the Rockaways. There, disgruntled elected officials and rank-and-file GOP members voiced their anger at the mayor. When Ognibene rose to speak, he was hailed as a hero. At one point, someone in the crowd yelled out that Ognibene ought to be running things for the party. Ognibene shouted back: "I can't. I'm going to be running for mayor."

Among those in the crowd that night was Wager, one of the two Bloomberg aides at the Starbucks sit-down. Wager, whose office is in City Hall's basement, did not respond to several messages.

The first news of Ognibene's candidacy came on Thursday, January 13, in the New York Post, where Frankie Edozien and David Seifman reported on the Rockaways rally, casually reporting that Ognibene "plans to run against Bloomberg." As Ognibene later told the Sun's John Avlon, he didn't make up his own mind until after the Rockaways meeting, when he went home and told his wife how enthusiastic the crowd had been. A day later, Ognibene made it official by calling the Times' Jonathan Hicks and telling him he was a candidate. Hicks called Cunningham for comment, and word quickly spread through City Hall.

When Wager learned about the story, according to sources, he called Ognibene to ask if it was true. "Yeah, that's right," Ognibene told him. "Well, that's no way to treat a friend," Wager responded.

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