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Rumsfeld: IRS also retaliates against outspoken business leaders

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,IRS

Tea Party and conservative constitutional groups may be the new targets of the Internal Revenue Service, but former Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld reveals in his new book out this week that outspoken businesses critical of the federal government are also singled out by the IRS and Securities and Exchange Commission.

In "Rumsfeld's Rules, Leadership lessons in Business, Politics, War and Life," the former chairman of G.D. Searle & Co. said that business leaders often bite their tongue rather than criticize presidents out of fear the administration will retaliate.

In a chapter titled "The case for capitalism," Rumsfeld notes that business leaders like to pose with presidents but "we seldom read about prominent business leaders directly critiquing the actions of the federal government or stepping up to defend the advantages of free markets and the opportunities they create for the American people."

In the book, written before news broke about the IRS targeting conservative groups prompted by the Tea Party movement, Rumsfeld suggests that the agency has a record of targeting critics.

"Having been in the position of a chief executive officer, I can understand why a businessman might be reluctant to speak out against the actions of federal agencies that have the power to harm their enterprises," he wrote in Rumsfeld's Rules, which goes on sale Tuesday.

"By doing so, corporate leaders could expose themselves and their companies to government retaliation--from the IRS, the SEC, congressional committees, or the many other agencies of the federal government that regulate and oversee their operations," he added.

Criticism of presidents, he said, is hard. "I suppose if more business leaders defended capitalism, there might not be quite as many smiling photos with politicians."

The book applauds the late Steve Jobs for standing up to President Obama and warning him that his policies were hurting American competitiveness. He urges other business leaders and politicians to follow suit, and not be afraid of government criticism or scrutiny. "America's economy was built on fortitude, not fear."