HOUSTON — A conservative operative has testified that former U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman hired people to spy on three Republican state lawmakers.

Benjamin Wetmore testified Thursday that shortly after Stockman took office in 2013 he became concerned that one of the lawmakers, Rep. James White of Woodville, was considering a primary challenge to Stockman.

Stockman said in a text to Wetmore that White, who’s black, worried him. “Republicans love black conservatives,” Stockman wrote.

Wetmore, who says he was hired by Stockman to oversee the surveillance, told the court that three months of trailing White yielded nothing incriminating.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Stockman is charged with 28 criminal counts, which include claims that he used charitable donations to pay for personal and political expenses.

His attorney, Sean Buckley, says Stockman committed no crime in using the money as he did.

Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com