Merhage Blows His CIA Cover to Meier

Meier returned to Vegas after greasing the wheels for Mike Merhage in Ecuador. Merhage came back to the home office later and explained to Meier how really important this particular project was “from an agency standpoint,” believing Meier knew he was a CIA agent using Toolco as cover. Meier was stunned by the revelation. (Merhage was apparently just a clumsy agent. In Meier’s file on the Ecuadorian situation is a letter from a bemused Ecuadorian official explaining that Merhage “was so obvious” they spotted him as an agent almost immediately.) While Merhage was still in Nevada, he again let Meier in on an agency matter that should have been kept confidential, and this time it proved to be a serious mistake. He gave him a list of American politicians the CIA wanted funded through Hughes. Meier was supposed to act as a courier and give the directive to Hughes, but later the agency would suspect that Meier had retained a copy of the list. He did keep a copy.

The directive is dated September 2, 1968. It is addressed to H.R.H., with a copy designated for R.M.A.—Robert Maheu Associates—and is headed “Proposed Fund-Support List as Through Local Outlets.” The list reads as follows:

Paul J. Fannin, Arizona

Wilbur D. Mills, Arkansas

Craig Hosmer, California

Robert L. Leggett, California

Gordon L. Allcott, Colorado

J. Herbert Burke, Florida

Hiram L. Fong, Hawaii

Larry Winn Jr., Kansas

Joe D. Waggonner Jr., Louisiana

Gerald R. Ford, Michigan

James O. Eastland, Mississippi

William J. Randall, Missouri

Paul Laxalt, Nevada

Howard W. Cannon, Nevada

Norris Cotton, New Hampshire

James R. Grover, New York

William H. Harsha, Ohio

Frank T. Bow, Ohio

John N. Camp, Oklahoma

Strom Thurmond, South Carolina

Dan H. Kuykendall, Tennessee

James H. Quillen, Tennessee

James M. Collins, Texas

Olin E. Teague, Texas

Omar Burleson, Texas

Abraham Kazen, Texas

John G. Tower, Texas

Wallace F. Bennett, Utah

W. C. Daniel, Virginia

Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia

Vernon W. Thomson, Wisconsin

The depth of CIA influence can be partly measured by the behavior of new, middle-level executives such as Merhage. When he didn’t get a quick enough response to the funding directive, he gave another copy to Meier and this time wrote, “John—am asking for progress,” and signed it. Like he ran the place. Toolco and HAC routinely hired CIA agents who would then be given jobs in other countries.