The Swift Boat crew is back for another election.

Many of the top donors to a group that funded controversial attacks on the military career of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in the 2004 presidential race are now heavily funding a super PAC targeting President Obama, new records show.

American Crossroads, a super PAC backed by former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove, received $6 million in October from the key backers of the earlier effort against Kerry, according to disclosures filed late Thursday. Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons gave $4 million; Houston homebuilder Bob J. Perry gave $1 million; and Dallas financier T. Boone Pickens chipped in another $1 million.

As first noted by the Huffington Post, the trio were the top three financial backers of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which accused Kerry of lying about his Vietnam War record and had a devastating impact on the Democrat’s campaign. The Post reported in 2010 that Swift Boat alumni were prominent among American Crossroads’ earliest donors, a trend that has continued in 2012.

Pickens had not previously given to the Rove group, but Simmons and Perry are among this year’s biggest conservative donors, taking advantage of loosened campaign regulations that make it easier to spend unlimited funds on elections. Simmons has contributed about $23 million to GOP groups — nearly all of it to Crossroads — while Perry has given $7.5 million to Crossroads and about $14 million to others.

Simmons told the Wall Street Journal in a rare interview earlier this year that he would spend up to $36 million to defeat Obama, whom he called “that socialist” and the “most dangerous American alive ... because he would eliminate free enterprise in this country.”

The situation is not without irony: Rove and other Republicans hope to use the power of outside money to their advantage as the Swift Boat organization did, but this time on behalf of a challenger. Democrats, meanwhile, are hoping Obama will be returned to office in a close, base-driven election as Bush was eight years ago, overcoming a tide of attacks from independent groups.