Spy operation bore little fruit, according to men hired by former U.S. Congressman Steve Stockman

March 26, 2018 GMT

Two political operatives hired by former U.S. Congressman Steve Stockman testified Monday at his federal corruption trial about a fruitless 2013 spy operation they conducted on fellow Republicans at the Texas capitol.

Robert Heberle, a federal prosecutor who is presenting the government’s case against Stockman’s in the federal trial, , asked one operative about a Stockman text introduced last week that said, “Republicans love black conservatives. I’m (sic) worried.” Heberle is part of a team of prosecutors who are attempting to convict the former Clearlake GOP lawmaker on 28 criminal counts related to a “massive scam ” they allege y Stockman engineered that diverted more than $1 million in charitable donations to his own use.

Benjamin Wetmore, who set up a surveillance team to spy on East Texas state Rep. James White, said he understood Stockman may have been fearful any information he uncovered about White might make Stockman look bad. He said it was not clear that Stockman hired him to diminish Republican support for White, whom Stockman viewed as a potential rival for his seat in congress.

MORE: Stockman spent charity funds to collect dirt on political opponent, witness says

Another amateur spy testified he was directly hired by Stockman to tackle another White surveillance operation, which involved photographing the state congressman’s home from the street, following White to an Austin nightspot called Bar of Congress and taking a photograph of his car parked nearby.

That witness, Jonathan Clark, testified that he didn’t turn up anything useful on White, whom he said he now has come to know and admire.

Prosecutors allege that both men were paid with money that Stockman has earlier solicited as a donation for charitable projects.

Gabrielle Banks covers federal court for the Houston Chronicle. Follow her on Twitter and send her tips at gabrielle.banks@chron.com.