A mysterious slush fund linked to the shop assistants' union - a dominant player in the Labor Party - was used to back a ticket aligned with whistleblower Kathy Jackson and federal Labor frontbencher David Feeney in the elections of the disgraced Health Services Union.
A Fairfax Media investigation has revealed a slush fund connected to the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association bankrolled the Jackson/Feeney-linked ticket in an election in 2012.
The slush fund contributed at least $30,000 to the ticket led by Marco Bolano, a former union secretary and ally of Ms Jackson.
Illustration: Matt Golding.
The royal commission into union corruption will examine evidence that the shop assistants' union - or slush funds associated with it - helped finance a successful Bolano campaign in 2009. Fairfax Media believes the sum was in the tens of thousands.
The socially conservative union, known as the ''shoppies'', is the largest union connected with the Labor Party and plays an important role in its factional politics.
Details of the shop assistants' union interference in elections of the Health Services Union follows revelations by Fairfax Media on Sunday that the royal commission is examining allegations that tobacco giant Philip Morris also donated to the Bolano campaign in 2009.
Mr Bolano has confirmed notifying the royal commission of the tobacco funding.
Unlike some slush funds, the shop assistants union-linked fund does not appear to be a company registered with the Australian corporate regulator.
But the fund does have a bank account with signatories believed to include the union's Victorian secretary, Michael Donovan.
The shop assistants' union has previously denied interference in the 2009 HSU election - an acrimonious three-way contest between rival right-wing sub-factions. It included candidates backed by current Labor leader Bill Shorten as well as those backed by Ms Jackson and Mr Feeney.
In 2009, the Jackson/Bolano ticket also received $30,000 from Industry 2020, a slush fund linked to the Australian Workers Union.
Its existence was revealed by Fairfax Media in December 2012.
The royal commission also has evidence of weeks of telephone and administrative support for Mr Bolano - valued at tens of thousands of dollars - from the right-wing National Union of Workers.
Mr Donovan did not return calls on Sunday.
In 2011 he told Fairfax Media that his union had given only ''moral support'' to the Feeney/Jackson/Bolano team in 2009.
The shop assistants' union is not among the five unions named as the focus of the royal commission, which is primarily interested in slush funds, including those operated by the Australian Workers Union and Transport Workers Union.
Speculation about interference by the shop assistants' union in other unions' elections has long been rife in the labour movement.
However, unlike other unions, it has managed to keep its factional interference in other unions behind closed doors.
The Health Services Union has long been viewed as a political vehicle by Labor sub-factions and a one-time factional base in the ALP for Mr Feeney, a current opposition frontbencher and right-wing faction boss.
The Bolano leadership was ousted in 2012 after a campaign by current secretary Diana Asmar, who is aligned with Mr Shorten.
Ms Jackson has not returned calls from Fairfax Media over the past three days.
Mr Bolano confirmed his understanding that Philip Morris helped bankroll his 2009 campaign, but said he could not comment further because of matters before the royal commission.